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Liberia Falls Short On Telecom Maturity Index

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Monrovia – BuddeComm’s Telecoms Maturity Index is trumpeting Mauritius as the leader of the telecoms market in Africa followed by Ghana and Tunisia. The year’s new ranking shows Algeria and South Africa are now in the top three with some red flags regarding operations of the sector in Liberia.

BuddeComm’s Telecoms Maturity Index analyses the broadband, mobile & fixed line markets of a country on top of a range of economic parameters to rank it on a scale of 1 to 100 and compare it to its region.

The 2019 market leaders: Mauritius remains the top-ranking country in Africa with a Telecoms Maturity Index score of 49, followed by Algeria (43) and South Africa (34). 

In Liberia, the report says the market is ineffectively monitored by the telecom regulator, which lacks the resources, technical expertise and documentation to enforce its orders. “As a result, a number of operators are able to avoid paying fees to the government and have continued to operate despite the regulator’s rulings that they must close down their services.”

 In contrast, Mauritius, the thriving tourism market has stimulated the broadband sector with an extensive DSL infrastructure and operators who have deployed fibre-based services in a number of localities. Mauritius Telecom invested Rs5.1 billion to roll out fibre across the island. Fibre is available to about 85% of the company’s fixed broadband customer base.

In Algeria, Mobilis, one of the 3 major mobile operators, has contracted Huawei as a partner for its network migration to 5G. Mobile penetration approaches 116% and mobile internet accounts for about 92% of all internet connections in the country.

In South Africa, mobile penetration by early 2019 approached 169%, driven partly by the popularity of multiple card use as also by the take-up of mobile broadband services. Mobile internet accounts for about 95% of all internet connections

In Liberia, the report notes, after more than a decade of civil war which destroyed much of its infrastructure, the country became a prime example of an almost entirely wireless telecommunications market. “There are two mobile operators – MTN Liberia, majority owned by MTN Group, and Orange Liberia, the local unit of Orange Group. Both have steadily invested in network infrastructure while MTN Liberia has been active in promoting its m-money services in a country where most people are un-banked. Competition between these operators has led to a reduction in pricing for voice and data services, and this prompted the regulator in late 2018 to suggest a tariff floor.”

The report states that internet services are available from a number of wireless ISPs as well as the mobile operators. The high cost and limited bandwidth of connections means that internet access is expensive and data rates are very low. Although additional bandwidth is available from an international submarine cable, considerable investment is still needed in domestic fixed-line infrastructure before end-users can make full use of the cable.

The report adds that harmonization of a disorderly mobile licensing and spectrum allocation regime has caused some difficulties, and market penetration remains low compared to other countries in the region. “Penetration has also been affected by SIM card registration requirements imposed in recent years. The privatization of the neglected incumbent telco Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (Libtelco) failed in 2005 though efforts to resuscitate the company have continued.”

Mobile telephony remains by far the dominant telecom service across Africa, accounting for more than 90% of all telephone lines on the continent. Given the very poor condition of fixed-line infrastructure in most markets, mobile internet access as a consequence also accounts for between 95% and 99% of all internet connections.

The size and range of the diverse markets within Africa have contributed to varied market penetration rates between countries. By early 2018 the highest mobile penetration was found in countries including South Africa (169%), Botswana (160%) and Mauritius (147%). To some degree high penetration reflects the popularity of consumers having multiple SIM cards despite efforts among most regulators to enforce measures by which operators must register SIM card users

The report says the top 3 market challengers are Libya with a score of 23, Lesotho (20.5) and Zimbabwe (20.2). Last year, the top challengers were Mauritania (13), Uganda (13) and Kenya (12).

Among the developing markets, the top three  countries are Burundi (9.4) Uganda (9.3) and Nigeria (9.1). Last year, the developing markets were Angola (7) Chad (7) and Cameroon (6).

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